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Project: Archive of (Extra) Ordinary People
Date: 2023
Location: Sant’ Elena, Venice

In collaboration with the Austrian Pavilion (Venice Biennale of Architecture 2023), Strings Theory Music Festival (Art Director: Francesca-Paola Motagni Marchiori), and residents of Sant’ Elena, Venice. Phase 1: July-Sept. 2023

In this age of increasing global connectivity, many of us are disconnected from the place we physically occupy. We renounce the simple acts of looking and listening to the space we are in and choose to exist elsewhere, in a virtual world. This project attempts to highlight the dilemma and encourage us to reflect, take a step back and consider the pros and cons of different kinds of connectivity. It emphasizes the values of storytelling, collective memory, community identity, local history, and the importance of individual voices.

In phase 1, a private, intimate, space was created outdoors in public places frequented by residents: bars, gardens, public squares, and church cloisters. Two people were invited to sit for a double portrait, and whilst I drew them, they began a dialogue, which was recorded. It took about an hour, on average. The sitters this summer included grandmothers with grandchildren, flatmates, married couples, stepsisters, mothers and daughters, friends, and workmates. All of them have a relationship with Sant’ Elena, the small island of 2000 souls at the green tip of Venice. The conversations weave the thread of ‘place’ into a tapestry of a community just 100 years old, employing humour, memories, histories, and myths in the process. The Archive of (Extra) Ordinary People is contained in these recollections and is also evident in the lines of the sitter’s faces, their expressions, their posture, and their relationship to each other.

36 people took part in phase 1 and there are 18 stories to translate, and then edit into a series of (verbatim) statements that cover the breadth of issues and concepts that people chose to discuss: the closure of local businesses, the football stadium, over-tourism, the importance of green space and water, the rowing and sailing clubs, sport, provision for young people, transport, education, dogs, and cats. The next phase Is to put the text, images, and sound together. This might be a series of college/drawings, or an installation, or a publication. The important part is whatever is produced is shared with the community that helped produce it. The intention is to make the project ongoing, sustainable and shared.